Call of the curlew inspiration for new music collaboration

Thursday 9 June 2022

A project between Cri’r Gylfinir (Curlew LIFE) project and Bocsŵn of Menter Iaith Conwy has seen a musician work with four primary schools to create and perform four songs.

Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma.

Sarah Zyborska a musician and film maker based on Anglesey has been working with four primary schools in the Ysbyty Ifan and Hiraethog areas, in order to create and perform new pieces of music inspired by the evocative call of the curlew. Sarah has worked with pupils at Ysgol Ysbyty Ifan, Pentrefoelas, Cerrigydrudion and Bro Aled to create songs that celebrate the curlew of the area - an iconic Welsh bird that is sadly declining and may disappear completely from our uplands. 


To celebrate the collaboration Cri’r Gylfinir and Bocsŵn are hosting a special evening at Pentrefoelas hall where pupils from each of the four schools will perform their songs and the audience will hear about the curlew of the area and from one of the local farmers who is helping secure the future of curlew on his land.   


Sarah Zyborska, singer/songwriter, said:

“Children are naturally imaginative and responsive. They evidently enjoyed learning about the curlew in their area and have created truly wonderful pieces as a result” 


As part of the project the pupils were taken to known curlew breeding sites and given the opportunity to watch the bird from afar through a telescope and record its call with Ben Porter, an expert on recording wildlife sounds. Since the visits the pupils have finished composing the words and music with Sarah who then wove them together into songs.   


Cri’r Gylfinir/CurlewLIFE is a four-year project working to halt the further decline of the number of breeding curlew in an area in the upper reaches of the Conwy Valley.  The area around Ysbyty Ifan and the western end of Hiraethog, is home to the largest population of breeding curlew in Wales. Currently, there are between 38 and 47 pairs of curlew breeding in the area. The project is working with local farmers to improve the habitat for curlews to nest and successfully rear chicks by rewetting boggy areas, creating scrapes (shallow pools), cutting rushes and introducing cattle grazing. The risk of predation is also being carefully managed through the breeding season. 


The current state of the population of breeding curlews in Wales is alarming. Since the mid 1990’s there has been a 69% decline in their number. If we don’t stem the decline in the number of curlew breeding successfully there will no longer be a viable breeding population in rural Wales by 2033 and they will be facing extinction there. Although it’s early days there are glimmers of hope that it’s possible to stabilise the population of breeding curlew in the project area. Last year a pair bred for the first time for 20 years at Blaen y Coed, on the edge of the Migneint as a result of the RSPB and the National Trust having undertaken substantial work to rewet the bog there with the support of Snowdonia National Park and Natural Resources Wales. We are glad to report that the pair are back breeding at Blaen y Coed this year and currently have chicks. Numerous other curlew nests in the project area have been temporarily fenced to keep predators at bay and staff and volunteers are diligently monitoring the nests and chicks.  


Sian Shakespear, Cri’r Gylfinir Community Engagement Officer, said:


“Working with the local agricultural community is crucial to ensure the future of this iconic bird in Ysbyty Ifan and Hiraethog and beyond. The hope is that with this project the next generation of farmers and landowners will be more  aware of the challenges breeding curlews face and what they can do to make sure the familiar call of the curlew continues to be  heard into the future. The project also aims to inspire the local community to want to do everything they can to protect breeding curlew for generations to come. “ 


Glesni Lloyd, Rural Area and Finance Officer, Menter Iaith Conwy 


“It was fantastic to be able to collaborate on the Curlew Life project, and allow kids from the Hiraethog and Ysbyty Ifan to benefit from the Bocsŵn project. It’s been a pleasure for the Menter to be a part of this important and exciting project. We’ve enjoyed working with RSPB Cymru and the musician Sarah Zyborska, as well as all the pupils from Ysbyty Ifan, Cerrigydrudion, Pentrefoelas and Bro Aled school, who were all involved in the project. It’s been a pleasure see the project develop, and the pupils learn and enjoy experimenting and being creative over the last few months.”


To hear the full version of the songs, click here



Tagged with: Country: Wales Country: Wales Topic: Curlew Topic: Wales Topic: Wales Topic: Wales